Testimony before House commission highlights extensive humanitarian needs Washington, DC – The global humanitarian agency Mercy Corps is calling on the United States Congress to expand humanitarian assistance and take a series of other decisive steps to help address ongoing humanitarian concerns in Iraq. In testimony before the U.S. House of Representatives Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, Mercy Corps highlighted multiple challenges in the conflict-torn nation.
“With the arrival of heavy winter rains and subzero temperatures, shelter and winterization supplies are a paramount concern for some 800,000 internally displaced Iraqis,” says Andrea Koppel, Vice President of Global Engagement and Policy at Mercy Corps, in her testimony to the congressional commission. “At least 940,000 Iraqis lack adequate food and essential household supplies like blankets, mattresses and soap.”
Koppel’s appearance before the commission follows a week-long trip to northern Iraq and Baghdad. “The current humanitarian emergency represents the tyranny of the immediate,” says Koppel. “But if poor governance and political and economic grievances continue to go unaddressed, sectarian violence and extremism in Iraq will surely escalate. Now is the time to begin enhancing social cohesion and defusing tensions between displaced people and their Iraqi hosts.”
To address the bleak conditions, Mercy Corps recommends that:
1.Congress fully fund the International Disaster Account and a robust Economic Support Fund to meet urgent humanitarian needs.
2.Congress empower the new central government of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and the Kurdish regional government to gain credibility among Iraqis for being responsive to the needs of conflict-affected Iraqi and Syrian people.
3.U.S. and other government donors significantly expand their assistance beyond the autonomous Kurdish region in order to support all conflict-affected populations across the country.
4.The U.S. government adopt a more holistic, relief-to-resilience approach in all its programs to defuse potential conflicts in already fragile communities.
Mercy Corps has operated continuously in Iraq since 2003, providing assistance to 5 million Iraqis affected by war, violence and displacement in all 18 governorates. Mercy Corps is currently addressing the needs of conflict- affected populations, including displaced Iraqi civilians, refugees from Syria and Iraqi host communities.